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Daughter "Waging War" Against Mother's Fiancé

I believe my daughter (who will turn 15 on March 20th) has ODD. Defiant is a word that has always described her, however, she and I have always dealt well together - until this past year. My fiancé moved in last March, and in May, she went to school drunk. So drunk in fact, that she was taken away by the police to the children's hospital for evaluation. She has continued to drink on weekends and every month or so, something occurs. It might be her being brought home by the police, or us calling the police to help as she is violent and acts possessed when she drinks. 

She did spend a week in the mental unit at the children's hospital. She is waging a war to get my fiancé to move out and the two of them are engaging in a war. He employs some pretty consistent methods, and we usually agree, but she has wrecked and stolen some of his things, called him everything under the sun, written notes and put them all over the house telling him to move out...you name it. Now he has no trust for her, nor do they like each other at all. They do not speak a word to each other, be in the same room or car with each other.

I feel that my choice is a very hard one. She is the only thing we really have any conflict over, but I am willing and prepared to say goodbye to what could have been my future with him if it will help her. The thing is, I don't want her to shove him out of the house and know she's got that power. I think he feels helpless and powerless and it makes him angrier.

I am trying to follow your eBook, and some of these things I was already doing, but we have a very major issue not addressed that I really don't know what to do about.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

J.

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Hi J,

This is a tough one. From your daughter’s point of view, she has everything to lose if you have a boyfriend. She’s been the center of your life and your attention for her whole little life. Why would she want that to change? She’s not mature enough to be sympathetic to your needs. She’s terrified that if you love someone else, there will be less love for her.

My best advice to you is to go very slow. Unless you have been seeing this man for at least 6 months and are pretty sure the relationship is going somewhere, it’s not wise to push her into having a relationship with him. It’s confusing to children to have people move in and out of their lives. It also frightens many children. They wonder, “If you can fall in and out of love with men, can you fall out of love with me?”

There are really two sides to this dilemma. One argument would be as follows:

1. If it comes down to picking between a relationship with your daughter or the boyfriend, lose the boyfriend. Your #1 concern is your child. You can wait to date for another 3 years. You do not need a boyfriend, you need to be a mother to your child.

Another equally valid argument would be:

2. She needs to learn that you, her mother, also have a life – and a need for relationship with a significant other. Don’t cave in to her manipulation or send the message that “if you just act-up enough, you can control what mom says and does.”

Since she is now 15, I think you can have a frank discussion with her about your feelings about your fiancé. You can go on to tell her that your current partner and you are in love and plan to be married someday. And because you are in love, you will continue to see one another. 

Ask her if she thinks she's ready to get over it and accept your fiancé. If she indicates she can't get over it or accept him, then tell her you will be setting up an appointment for a therapist. If she says she's not going, tell her she will be going. 

When it's time for the appointment, you just tell her she is going - period. She may say she's not going to talk at the therapist's office. But that's okay. That's the therapist's problem. (Quite honestly, it sounds like she needs some counseling anyway, maybe in the form of drug and alcohol treatment.)

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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